A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia – meet the Author – June 16, 2018

A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses in Nova Scotia – book signing by the author will take place this coming Saturday, June 16 at  Bear River Sissiboo Coffee Roaster between  2 and 4 – pm. Come by and talk with the author Brenda Thompson.


“Picture yourself as a poor person, 125 years ago in Nova Scotia. Maybe you lived in Halifax; maybe you lived in rural Nova Scotia. You are destitute. You have lost your job and the Employment Insurance Program is still many decades away. You cannot find another job, because there is no longer a need in the market place for your skills; or you have a bad reputation as a worker and no one will hire you or perhaps there are simply no jobs available.” from the article by Brenda Thompson “How to Get Into a Poor House”.

Book review here.



HALIFAX, NS – Brenda Thompson is known in many advocacy circles as a local legend. A single mother on social assistance in her early twenties back in the 80s, she was the David to then Minister of Social Services Edmund Morris’ Goliath – taking the Minister to court and ultimately resulting in having him shuffled out of that portfolio. With the release of her new book, “A Wholesome Horror – Poor Houses in Nova Scotia” at the end of this month, Thompson is as determined as ever to highlight the plight of Nova Scotians living in poverty.

A Wholesome Horror, published by SSP Publications, provides an overview of how poor people in Nova Scotia are treated, and shares the evolution of private and government-subsidized poor houses, noting that only one of these 32 sites remain – and is now an apartment building.

“There are so many misconceptions about poor people that we need to hear from those who experience poverty to hear the real stories,” says Thompson. “I saw the Marshalltown Alms House in the early 90s and wanted to write about poor houses then. It was important to write as our history is so often based on the perspectives of people in power; we need to hear the voices of those so low on the social ladder that they didn’t even make the bottom rung.”

As one of the original founders of Mothers United for Metro Shelter (MUMS), Thompson brought her real-life expertise to the book, with stories rich in tenacity and grit. She recalls the days where she would join dozens of other mothers to storm the Legislature, handing out eviction notices to MLAs, in an attempt to push Premier Buchanan to address the housing situation for those on social assistance.

A demoralizing realization occurred throughout the writing process for Thompson – in the decades that have passed, we’ve made very little progress.

“It is important to not only read about the way we treated poor people in our history but it is equally important to note that we still treat poor people much the same as we did then,” says Thompson. “Nothing much has changed in our attitudes or treatment.”

A Wholesome Horror was launched in Annapolis Royal on May 20th at Sissiboo Coffee Bar and Gallery. with books available through the publisher here. and at Indigo and Chapters.

For more information:
Allison Garber
(902) 221-5254